Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heads Will Roll

When my Grandfather wasn’t busy chasing me around his Vernon, NJ home w/ two unloaded but very real .38 special revolvers, he’d spend his time indulging rather particular culinary tastes. He’s the first person I’d ever known who ate things that didn’t seem fit for human consumption -- deep-fried flowers, boiled eels, and roasted sheep’s heads, to name a few. Of all these dubious delicacies, Capozelle was Gramps’ favorite.

Capozelle is the sexy Italian way to say, “Sheep’s Head Oreganata”, but don’t get it twisted; there’s nothing sexy about this edible science experiment. Traditional Capozelle preparation is as follows:

1. Slice a young sheep’s head in half lengthwise – your best bet is to have the butcher handle this.

2. Arrange both halves, open-side-up and season liberally w/ olive, minced garlic, and cheese/herb/breadcrumb mixture (I used panko!).

3. Slow-roast, uncovered, in a 350° F oven for about an hour and a half. A bit of red wine in the bottom of the pan keeps the head from drying out.

Gramps forced this monstrosity on me when I was about 8 years old; surely this is borderline abuse. I remember thinking that the tongue tasted like a meat marshmallow, and the brain like bread crumbs. Two decades later and none the wiser, I decided to revisit Gramp’s infamous Capozelle.
Let's break it down bit-by-bit --

The cheeks:

Meaty, tender and not especially gamey -- better yet, you can pretend you are eating a different part of the animal, making the entire experience a bit more palatable.

The tongue:

Generally, I enjoy tongue, however, a properly prepared tongue is stripped of its outer skin prior to eating; this preparation does not allow for such a luxury, resulting in mouthfuls of DISGUSTING papillae-covered skin. GROSS.

The brain:
An acquired taste to say the least. The texture is glandular to the max; a firm mush -- kind of like sweetbreads, if you have that frame of reference. The taste, while initially pungent, has a mild finish. All-in-all, an awkward, if not unpleasant experience.

The eyeball:

Nope, maybe next time. I think the only way I'd be able to stomach this Godless nibble is if I were drunk or held at gun point -- either of which, are possible at any given moment.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.com


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